‘Little maggot-infested man’ Tom Cotton rises to top of Trump VP list

A new name has popped up in the chatter about Donald Trump’s potential pick for vice president: Sen. Tom Cotton. He’s reportedly high on the list because of his “experience and the ability to run a disciplined campaign.” As a running mate, the Arkansas senator “would carry relatively little risk of creating unwanted distractions for a presidential campaign already facing multiple legal threats,” according to The New York Times.

But it sure seems risky to put a no-holds barred racist, sexist creep on a debate stage with Vice President Kamala Harris. Cotton traded in his dog whistle for a racist bullhorn years ago, and has made headlines with his outrageous statements and behavior.

Here is a mere sampling of Cotton’s lowlights:

Attacking Ketanji Brown Jackson

During the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Cotton teamed up with the other deplorables on the Senate Judiciary Committee to harangue the nominee about everything from QAnon theories to her history as a public defender, attempting to paint her as an adherent of “critical race theory,” as if that’s a bad thing.

Cotton really sunk to the bottom, however, when he all but called Jackson a Nazi sympathizer during a floor speech. “You know, the last Judge Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the case against the Nazis,” he said. “This Judge Jackson might’ve gone there to defend them.”

“Judge Jackson voluntarily represented three terrorists in three cases,” Cotton complained to CNN. “And she called American soldiers war criminals. I have no patience for it.” Jackson, of course, did not call U.S. troops war criminals.

Those were the accusations that prompted Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison to call Cotton the “lowest of the low” and a “little maggot-infested man.”

Attacking the first Muslim American appeals court nominee

Cotton’s recent bigoted attacks on Adeel A. Mangi, the first-ever Muslim American federal appeals court nominee, also made headlines when he subjected the Pakistani-born attorney to a barrage of Islamophobic questions about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, al-Qaida’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, policy issues regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and antisemitism in general.

Cotton bragged about his harassment of Mangi on X (formerly Twitter), crowing about his “gotcha” question trying to paint Mangi as antisemitic. Which is ironic, given Cotton’s previous antisemitic tweet history.

Blocking nominees of color

Cotton has a history of opposing Democratic presidents’ Black and brown nominees. From 2014 through 2016, Cotton blocked President Barack Obama’s friend and nominee Cassandra Butts—a Black woman—from an ambassador job. Why? When Butts met with him about his block, she told The New York Times’ Frank Bruni, Cotton admitted it was because “he knew that she was a close friend of Obama’s … and that blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president.” Butts died of cancer more than 800 days after her nomination.

Smearing a Singapore national

The senator proved himself an equal opportunity bigot in a recent Senate hearing on child safety and social media, repeatedly attacking TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew—a Singapore national—about his supposed personal connections to “the Chinese Communist Party.” Chew repeatedly denied Cotton’s obnoxious assertions, reiterating again and again, “I served my nation of Singapore.”

That didn’t stop Cotton from running to Fox News to smear Chew. “Singapore, unfortunately, is one of the places in the world that has the highest degree of infiltration and influence by the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “So, Mr. Chew has a lot to answer for, for what his app is doing in America and why it’s doing it.”

Defending slavery

Of course, Cotton’s racist theatrics haven’t been confined to Senate hearings. He authored legislation in 2020 to ban public schools from using a curriculum based on The New York Times’ 1619 Project, which dissected slavery’s impact on our country’s founding. He justified his bill by calling The 1619 Project “left-wing propaganda” and revisionist history at its worst.”

Cotton added that children should instead be taught that slavery “was the necessary evil upon which the union was built.”

National security sabotoge

When he wasn’t harassing people of color during hearings, Cotton also dabbled in national security sabotage, interfering in Obama’s negotiations with Iran on their nuclear capabilities. Cotton spearheaded a letter from GOP senators to Iranian leaders telling them that even if they came to an agreement with the U.S., future administrations and/or Congress could renege on it. 

That infamous New York Times op-ed

And don’t forget Cotton’s gross New York Times op-ed titled “Send In The Troops,” which called for Donald Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act and use “an overwhelming show of force” against protesters who took to the streets nationwide in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police. The column incited fierce backlash, which led to backpedaling from The New York Times and the opinion page editor’s resignation.

None of this will diminish Cotton’s prospects with Trump, who likes him because he’s a smart guy with an elite education. Also, he’s a reliable sycophant.

Cotton has refused to condemn Trump’s love of Vladimir Putin, and has bragged about how he ignored the evidence and arguments in Trump’s first impeachment. 

“My aides delivered a steady flow of papers and photocopied books, hidden underneath a fancy cover sheet labeled ‘Supplementary Impeachment Materials’, so nosy reporters sitting above us in the Senate gallery couldn’t see what I was reading,” Cotton wrote in his 2022 memoir.

Everything about Cotton appeals to Trump—and everything about him will revolt voters.

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Tom Cotton calls slavery a 'necessary evil' in push to ban schools from teaching the 1619 Project

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Republicans have their racist knives out for Ketanji Brown Jackson

New York Times gets justifiably smashed for publishing Sen. Tom Cotton's fascist screed

We're heading across the pond for this week's episode of "The Downballot" after the UK just announced it would hold snap elections—on July 4, no less. Co-host David Beard gives us Yanks a full run-down, including how the elections will work, what the polls are predicting, and what Labour plans to do if it finally ends 14 years of Conservative rule. We also take detours into Scotland and Rwanda (believe it or not) and bear down on a small far-right party that could cost the Tories dearly.

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Watch GOP congressman fail to explain bonkers Trump assassination claim

After lying that President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice conspired to assassinate Donald Trump during a 2022 raid of Mar-a-Lago, Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida is refusing to walk back his claims. 

During an interview on CNN Thursday night, Donalds repeatedly tried to change the subject when pressed by host Abby Phillip

Donalds wrote on social media, “Newly-released court documents reveal that Joe Biden's DOJ authorized the use of DEADLY FORCE in its raid of President Trump's home.” 

The FBI called this claim “patently false.” 

The language in the search warrant regarding the use of deadly force “is part of the standard operations plan for searches,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters during a press conference Thursday. “In fact, it was even used in the consensual search of President Biden's home.” 

When asked whether or not he will acknowledge the falsehood of his conspiracy claim, Donalds provided a series of nonanswers, including offensive remarks about Biden and claims that he’s using the DOJ as political ammunition against Trump.

“I’m telling you, we are witnessing a weaponization of the Department of Justice against a political rival,” he said. 

“It’s a simple question of whether the raid was carried out in a way that was standard operating procedure for the FBI,” Phillip said. “Why would you insinuate that that was some kind of attempt at former President Trump’s life?”

In response, Donalds calls back to a super timely GOP talking point: Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Like many Republicans, Donald Trump has tried to sidestep the issue of abortion and reproductive rights. But he stumbled during an interview with a CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh this week, promising an “interesting” new policy that would let states restrict contraception..

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The pressure is building for the Senate to do something about Alito

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s insurrectionist flag flying was bad enough the first time around. The second instance demands action. Congress, Chief Justice John Roberts, and the third branch body that oversees the judiciary—the Judicial Conference—have to act, but it’s not going to happen unless the Senate Judiciary Committee raises some hell. 

The problem is the chair of that committee, who is also the No. 2 leader of the Senate Democrats, is dithering. Dick Durbin of Illinois, told reporters “I don't think there's much to be gained with a hearing at this point” when news broke that Alito flew an upside-down American flag at his home days after the violent insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, as well as while the court was still considering whether to take up cases over the 2020 election.

“I think he should recuse himself from cases involving Trump and his administration,” Durbin continued.

After the second flag scandal, Durbin is still just calling for Alito’s recusal on cases the court is deciding right now: Donald Trump’s immunity in criminal cases in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and on the prosecution of Jan. 6 riot participants. He’s still not sure whether his committee should investigate; He wants more time to think about it.

“Justice Alito is not taking care to avoid political identity,” he told The Washington Post. “He is identifying the right-wing elements in our political system. And that’s unfortunate. It’s further evidence of the need for him to recuse himself from cases that involve the Trump administration.”

“[Chief] Justice Roberts has to step back and realize the damage that’s being done to the reputation of the court,” Durbin added.

Roberts might realize that, but the chances that he’s going to do something about it are about as unlikely as Alito’s recusal.

Outside groups, including Indivisible and Demand Justice, as well as legal experts are pressuring Durbin to act by launching an investigation into Alito’s insurrectionist leanings. “Chief Justice Roberts must demand that Justices Thomas and Alito not be allowed to participate in deciding the immunity case or any other decision related to Jan. 6,” Norman Eisen, former impeachment counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, and Michael Podhorzer, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote this week for MSNBC.  

“And the Senate should hold hearings immediately investigating their conduct. Any other course risks the court’s legitimacy, Americans’ rights and the rule of law,” they concluded.

Durbin is facing pressure inside the Senate as well. Two Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, both nipping at Durbin’s heels to succeed him as chair, want more. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told MSNBC’s Lawrence O'Donnell that what Alito is doing by refusing to recuse on these cases is breaking a "law passed by Congress, specifically applicable to Supreme Court Justices. When they pay no attention to it, they are actually violating statutory law."

Whitehouse went on to say that “it has gotten to the point where the Chief Justice has to engage, and I think you will see more action on that shortly out of the Judiciary Committee.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Tuesday that “Chief Justice Roberts ought to be summoned to a hearing before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. He ought to show some leadership and be held accountable.”

“Of course, Justice Alito ought to be subpoenaed as well in my view, but likely he is not going to appear and I think it is a time of reckoning for the Congress,” Blumenthal continued.

“Justice Alito says the Congress can't regulate, to use his term, the Supreme Court. But the Congress set salaries. It sets rules of procedure. It sets the numbers of justices. The founders didn't want the United States Supreme Court to be above the law.”

Alito famously declared himself and the rest of the justices just that in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, in which he made a startling assertion of constitutional power: “No provision in the Constitution gives [Congress] the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period.”

That interview was with David Rivkin Jr., a regular contributor to the WSJ who also happens to be a lawyer who was about to argue a major tax case before the court. Durbin once again called on Alito to recuse from that case, as well as on Roberts to do something about Alito, for all the good it did.

This is not so subtle pressure on Durbin to do more than tweet sternly worded statements from two of his senior committee members. They see what all of us see: Asking nicely for Alito to recuse—which Durbin and House Democrats have done—is weak sauce.

It’s time to act. House Democratic leadership should be talking impeachment instead of issuing empty demands to Alito. No, Speaker Mike Johnson won’t go along with it, but Democrats are a hair's breadth from having control of the House and they should act like it. They are also likely to take the House back in November, which gives an impeachment threat now more weight.

The Senate Judiciary, led by Durbin, has to investigate. They have to put maximum pressure on Roberts starting right now, before the court issues its rulings on Trump immunity. 

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Democrats remind Alito that he's not a king. Even if he thinks he is

It’s time for the Senate to do something about Supreme Court corruption

Alito has another 'Stop the Steal' flag—and he's not blaming his wife this time

We're heading across the pond for this week's episode of "The Downballot" after the UK just announced it would hold snap elections—on July 4, no less. Co-host David Beard gives us Yanks a full run-down, including how the elections will work, what the polls are predicting, and what Labour plans to do if it finally ends 14 years of Conservative rule. We also take detours into Scotland and Rwanda (believe it or not) and bear down on a small far-right party that could cost the Tories dearly.

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‘The house is on fire’: Texas GOP plots its next chapter amid civil war

Under outgoing chair Matt Rinaldi, the party’s donor base has shrunk as it aligns with two far-right megadonors.

By Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune

In one of his last speeches as chair of the Republican Party of Texas, Matt Rinaldi declared victory.

“We’ve changed the game,” he told members of the Texas GOP’s executive committee in February. “The biggest con that has been propagated against grassroots Republicans is that you have no other job other than to be a cheerleading society for anyone with an R next to their name.”

Rinaldi has indeed accomplished what he set out to do in 2021, when he was first elected chair. Whereas most of his predecessors focused on traditional party duties — courting donors, recruiting candidates and voter outreach — Rinaldi has turned the chair into a bully pulpit, using it to attack and purge more moderate Republicans and help usher in a dark-red wave in this year’s primaries. But when he steps down as chair this week, he will leave behind a deeply divided organization, with a decimated staff, that is increasingly dependent on two ultraconservative megadonors who have played key roles in the party’s ongoing civil war.

Last year, the Texas GOP’s fundraising dropped to its lowest level since 2017, and the number of corporate and individual donors to the party’s state account sank to their lowest levels in at least a decade. The party currently has just five employees — compared to 50 at the same point in 2020, the last presidential election year.

In its most recent federal filing, in April, the party reported having $2.7 million on-hand — three-quarters of what it had at the same point in the 2020 cycle, when adjusted for inflation. And much of the funds reported by the party in April have already been spent to cover the estimated $1.8 million cost of this week's convention — which is projected to operate at a $38,000 loss for the party, executive committee members were told at a Wednesday financial briefing.

As its donor base has shrunk, the party has increasingly relied on two West Texas oil tycoons, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, who have for years funded attacks by the far right on fellow Republicans, pushed for hardline restrictions on immigration and LGBTQ+ rights, and faced recent scandals over avowed white supremacists and antisemites working for their political network. In the decade before Rinaldi became chair, the party received $310,000 in donations from Dunn, Wilks or their political action committees. Since then, they have given more than $1.2 million to the party — and last year, as Rinaldi increasingly used his position to attack their political enemies, the billionaires made up a quarter of the party’s total donations.

At the same time, some Republicans say, they’ve seen a noticeable drop in solicitations from the party for donations.
“I have gotten precious little under [Rinaldi’s] leadership asking for funding — precious little,” Andi Turner, a Republican lobbyist, said on a recent podcast. “And having done fundraising for a major organization in this state, I can tell you that if you're not asking every month, then you get what you deserve.”
 

The party’s divisions and proximity to Dunn and Wilks have turned the race to replace Rinaldi into a referendum on his tenure, and whether to continue its direction by electing his endorsed candidate, Abraham George, as the party’s new leader. Earlier this year, Texas GOP Vice Chair Dana Myers announced her candidacy for chair, saying the party was in a “state of disarray, fractured by internal divisions and marred by turmoil.”

In his late campaign announcement last week, Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak blasted what he said has been “five years of neglect, dishonesty, self-dealing, and blatant anti-Semitism.” And at a candidate forum days earlier, Houston-area businessman Ben Armenta argued that the party’s “chaos” has come at the expense of voter outreach initiatives and stronger partnership with grassroots groups.

The party “has not gotten the grassroots the resources it needs,” Armenta said. “Everyone is on the frontlines, waiting for the supplies to get there.”

Rinaldi did not respond to interview requests, but downplayed some of those concerns on a recent podcast. The party’s tiny staffing levels, he said, are due to cuts to regional employees who were replaced with contract labor. Other employees, he said, were working at the direction of the Republican National Convention, which scaled back in reliably-red states. That’s a “good sign” of the Texas GOP’s strength, Rinaldi said. He has similarly downplayed the party’s broader infighting, saying that it has good relationships with most elected leaders — save for House Speaker Dade Phelan and the Beaumont Republican’s “closest lieutenants.”

Longtime party members disagree.

“His time as chair is going to be seen as the time when the Republican Party no longer came together,” said Derek Ryan, a veteran consultant and adviser to GOP campaigns. “There is a certain portion of the party and electorate that is thrilled by that, and there are financial backers that are thrilled by that. And they may be effective right now at getting their agenda through. But is it coming at a cost in 2024, 2026 and beyond?”

“Win elections and beat Democrats”

As the party’s executive director from 1997 to 2004, Wayne Hamilton was on the frontlines of the fight against generations of Democratic dominance over the state. Hamilton credited the GOP’s rise to close collaboration between the party, Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, and a coalition of business, socially conservative and grassroots groups.

“The party was focused at the time on what the party is supposed to do, which is win elections and beat Democrats,” said Hamilton, who later served as a national political director for Perry’s 2012 presidential bid and campaign manager for Gov. Greg Abbott in 2014. “We worked with anybody who would work with us.”

By 2008, however, the Republican Party of Texas was insolvent, with nearly $750,000 in debt that had accumulated over more than 15 years, as the party borrowed from future election cycles to cover convention costs, salaries or to pay outside groups that assisted with fundraising efforts. Deep in the red, the party and its new chair, Steve Munisteri, spent the next few years beefing up their outreach to donors, consolidating and streamlining its fundraising initiatives and working closely with officials such as Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

“Our teams were always over at their teams’ shops,” Munisteri said in a recent interview. “The way I tried to govern was to bring all the factions together, find the common ground and create good dialogue and cooperation between the elected officials, the donors and the grassroots.”

Under Munisteri, the Republican Party of Texas sent out more than a million mailers each election cycle, created a network of phone-bankers and set up “victory centers” in major cities and predominantly Hispanic regions of the state. Aided by anti-Obama anger and the tea party movement, the party saw stunning results. From 2010 to 2015, Texas Republicans picked up nearly 1,200 seats across the state, grew their narrow advantage in the state Legislature into a supermajority, and zeroed out the party’s debt. 

Former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri at the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth on June 7, 2014. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune.

By the time Munisteri stepped down as chair in 2015, that political marriage was showing early signs of acrimony. As tea party lawmakers and groups gained influence — often with major funding from Dunn and Wilks — they increasingly accused fellow Republicans, namely then-House Speaker Joe Straus, of being weak conservatives, and attacked them for working with House Democrats on bipartisan legislation.

Meanwhile, Dunn and Wilks continued to build their influence. In 2015, they were crucial to then-Sen. Ken Paxton’s election to attorney general. And in 2017, Rinaldi and other lawmakers funded by the billionaires formed a new group, the Texas House Freedom Caucus, that continued to attack House leaders from the right, laying the groundwork for the party’s eventual civil war.

Hot topics

At each of the party’s biennial conventions, delegates debate and approve its platform, a sprawling outline of conservative policy priorities which has for years been viewed as a bellwether for broader Republican sentiment.

And for years, party leaders cautioned that the platform should be understood not as an end-all-be-all list of Republican stances, but as a broad set of positions that reflect the party’s diverse coalition of business, activist and grassroots groups.

“It's false to represent that each one of those platform planks necessarily represents ... the view of the majority of the delegates, let alone a majority of Republicans," Munisteri said in 2014, amid criticism of the platform’s calls that year to repeal the Voting Rights Act, endorse conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people and end in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. “The Texas Republican Party has millions of people who vote for it, and every individual Republican has their own views on issues."

From left: West Texas billionaires Farris Wilks and Tim Dunn. Credit: Courtesy Ronald W. Erdrich/Abilene Reporter-News|Brett Buchanan for The Texas Tribune

That’s changing, however, as the state’s ultraconservatives continue to consolidate power. While the platform has always trended toward the right — the 2014 platform also called for the end of hate crimes laws and the restoration of Confederate symbols — by 2022 it had turned into what Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas-Austin, called a “Frankenstein assemblage of up-to-the-minute GOP hot topics.”

That year, the platform included calls for a referendum on Texas secession; resistance to the “Great Reset,” a conspiracy theory that claims global elites are using environmental and social policies to enslave the world’s population; proclamations that homosexuality is an “abnormal lifestyle choice”; and a declaration that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected.

Over the same time — and reflecting the party’s ongoing division and purity tests — the platform has begun to shift from merely a compromise document, and into a vehicle for punishing dissent. In just the last year, it was cited in censures of three prominent Republican officeholders: Phelan and outgoing Junction Rep. Andrew Murr, both of whom were central to Paxton’s impeachment; and U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, of San Antonio, over his vote for a bipartisan gun law in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, which is in his district.

Heading into this year’s convention, a Texas GOP committee also adopted language requiring state and county chairs to reject ballot applications from any official censured in the two years prior, a move that would give the party unprecedented sway over who can run in GOP primaries. “The party apparatus has gone from being the means of sorting out tensions within the Republican coalition to being an ally of the more extreme and ideologically driven factions, interest groups and organizations within the party,” Henson said.

That was evident by 2020. Furious that the party’s convention was virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, delegates ousted then-Chair James Dickey and replaced him with Allen West, a former Florida congressman who has long flirted with conspiracy theories.

In a recent interview, Dickey downplayed West’s election as a sign of the party’s shift, instead blaming his defeat on elected Democrats in Houston who fought against allowing the convention to be held in person there because of the pandemic. “It was a very unpleasant experience,” he said. “And as happened to President Trump, incumbents don't fare well in unpleasant experiences.”

West was an immediate lightning rod. He suggested that “law-abiding states” should secede from the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court shot down Texas’ lawsuit challenging the 2020 presidential election results. He pushed for the Texas GOP to have an account on Gab, a social media website frequented by neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists. He appeared at a convention for QAnon conspiracy theorists, and repeatedly used some of the movement’s best-known slogans. He referred to the party’s then-vice chair, Cat Parks, as a “cancer” (Parks is a cancer survivor). And he repeatedly blasted Abbott, at one point leading protests outside the governor’s mansion over his pandemic orders.
In June 2021 — barely a year after he was elected chair — West stepped down, and soon after announced his campaign against Abbott for governor. The Texas GOP’s executive committee met soon after to choose between four potential successors that included David Covey, the former Orange County GOP chair who is currently in a runoff against Phelan; and Rinaldi, a West ally who had remained involved in party affairs after losing his House seat to a Democrat in 2018.
 

Rinaldi won, and immediately called for unity. "We cannot lose Texas — and will not lose Texas — if we work together," he said in his victory speech.

Rinaldi's reign

The reconciliation period was short.

After running unopposed for a second term in 2022, Rinaldi began to stoke a broader civil war. As other donors pulled back their giving, Rinaldi further aligned the party with Dunn and Wilks, using his powers to attack the billionaires’ Republican opponents and to help them survive a series of high-profile scandals and potential setbacks.

In March 2023 — and hours after leaving a small, private donor retreat with Rinaldi and Dunn — Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican who was heavily funded by the West Texas oil billionaires, invited a 19-year-old intern to his downtown Austin apartment, plied her with alcohol and had sex with her. Rinaldi was later criticized for what some said was a delayed and muted response to the allegations against Slaton, who the Texas House later expelled unanimously. 

He spent the next three months vociferously attacking House leaders for impeaching Paxton, a key ally whose two largest donors are Dunn and Wilks. And when some Republicans publicly worried about the party’s paltry fundraising, the then-leader of Dunn and Wilks’ main political action committee responded with insults and assurances that the billionaires would make up the gap.

“Quit being such an obvious lackey,” Jonathan Stickland, who was at the time president of Defend Texas Liberty PAC, wrote in one social media exchange. “[The party] will have everything it needs.”

In the wake of Paxton’s acquittal by the Texas Senate, Rinaldi, Stickland and other allies of the billionaires’ political network vowed scorched-earth revenge against anyone who supported the impeachment.

Those retribution plans were disrupted two weeks later, when the Texas Tribune reported that Stickland had hosted notorious white supremacist and Hitler admirer Nick Fuentes for several hours. Rinadi was spotted outside the meeting, but denied knowing Fuentes was inside. Subsequent reporting by the Tribune uncovered deeper ties between the network and avowed antisemites. As other Republicans condemned the meeting and called for the party to cut ties with Defend Texas Liberty, Rinaldi attacked critics of Stickland and his billionaire funders — while quietly working as an attorney for Wilks.

The series of scandals did not hinder Dunn and Wilks’ political network. After spinning off a new PAC, Texans United For a Conservative Majority, ahead of this year’s GOP primary, the billionaires saw massive electoral gains that will likely give them more control than ever over the state Legislature. Rinaldi endorsed most of their candidates and, 10 days after primary day, announced he would not seek a third term as chair.

Hamilton, the former Texas GOP executive director, said the last few years have made him increasingly worried that current infighting and purity tests have made Republicans vulnerable. After seven years as the party’s executive director — the longest-ever tenure — and stints on Abbott and Perry’s campaigns, Hamilton started Project Red TX, a grassroots group that recruits and supports candidates in south Texas, which he says has been almost entirely neglected by the party.

Hamilton, the former Texas GOP executive director, said the last few years have made him increasingly worried that current infighting and purity tests have made Republicans vulnerable. After seven years as the party’s executive director — the longest-ever tenure — and stints on Abbott and Perry’s campaigns, Hamilton started Project Red TX, a grassroots group that recruits and supports candidates in south Texas, which he says has been almost entirely neglected by the party.

Today’s party, he said, is a “night-and-day” contrast from two decades ago, when a united coalition of Republicans worked together to flip the state’s political landscape on its head and cement a generation of GOP dominance.

“It’s becoming more of an advocacy group — similar to an industry group, business group or sector group — rather than a functioning campaign organization,” he said. ”It leaves a big void. … Meanwhile, the house is on fire.”

When delegates choose this week between six candidates to replace Rinaldi, they will do so at a convention replete with signs of the party’s new alignment. The leader of Dunn and Wilks’ political network, Luke Macias, will lead the group that nominates party representatives to the Republican National Convention; the convention’s sponsors include Wilks’ development company and three other groups funded by the billionaires; and the event schedule features a breakfast hosted by the Dunn family, and five events — by far the most of any other figure — hosted by Sen. Bob Hall, an Edgewood Republican who has received $853,000 from the billionaires.

Among the frontrunners in the race is George, whose endorsements by Rinaldi and his allies have helped him overcome backlash after reports that he was intercepted by police last year as he left his home with a loaded gun to confront a man he believed was sleeping with his wife. George, the former chair of the Collin County GOP, has said that he wants to expand the party’s fundraising and is running on a platform to, among other things, “defeat the Austin swamp.” But Republicans broadly agree that his election would continue the party’s current direction under Rinaldi. And they are, yet again, divided over whether that’d be great or cataclysmic.

“Rinaldi made it very clear that if you think the party has been doing just perfectly the last two years, then George would be the candidate to support,” said Dickey, the former chair who is supporting Mike Garcia in the race. “I think it is clear from the amount of candidates that have stepped up that there are concerns about doing just that.”

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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IRS whistleblower Shapley said he ‘could no longer pursue’ Hunter Biden sugar brother Kevin Morris due to CIA

IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley said he was told he "could no longer pursue" Hunter Biden "sugar brother" Kevin Morris as a witness due to information provided by the CIA, according to an affidavit released Wednesday. 

Fox News Digital first reported earlier this year that a whistleblower claimedthe CIA "stonewalled" an IRS interview with Morris, who provided millions of dollars to pay the first son’s tax debts. Those whistleblowers said the CIA "intervened to stop the interview" with Morris in August 2021. 

The CIA told Fox News Digital those allegations were false. 

Shapley’s affidavit, released Wednesday, shed further light the CIA's alleged interference in the attempted interview with Morris.

WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS CIA 'STONEWALLED' IRS INTERVIEW WITH HUNTER BIDEN 'SUGAR BROTHER' KEVIN MORRIS: HOUSE GOP

"In and around August 2021, discussions were ongoing within the prosecution team on the Hunter Biden investigation concerning witnesses who needed to be interviewed in furtherance of the investigation," Shapley said in his affidavit. 

Shapley said that Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Wolf told the team that she and DOJ Tax Attorney Jack Morgan "had recently returned from the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where they had been summoned to discuss Kevin Morris." 

Shapley said "Wolf stated that they were provided a classified briefing in relation to Mr. Morris and as a result we could no longer pursue him as a witness." 

"Investigators probed AUSA Wolf, but since her briefing was classified and she was apparently sanitizing it to an unclassified form to share over an open phone line, she did not elaborate with more information," Shapley said, adding that Wolf "reiterated more than once that they were summoned to the CIA in Langley concerning Mr. Morris, and that because of the information provided there, he could not be a witness for the investigation." 

Shapley recalled that Wolf "proudly referenced a CIA mug and stated that she purchased some CIA ‘swag’ at the gift shop while she was there." 

"It is unclear how the CIA became aware that Mr. Morris was a potential witness in the Hunter Biden investigation and why agents were not told about the meeting in advance or invited to participate," Shapley said. "It is a deviation of normal investigative processes for prosecutors to exclude investigators from substantive meetings such as this." 

The CIA told Fox News Digital last month that allegations it stonewalled the interview with Morris were "false." 

"Without confirming or denying the existence of any associations or communications, CIA did not prevent or seek to prevent IRS or DOJ from conducting any such interview," James Catella, the CIA’s director of the Office of Congressional Affairs, wrote in a letter to Jordan and Comer. "The allegation is false." 

The CIA said that, as a general matter and "without specific reference to the issue about which you have inquired, CIA facilitates the Department of Justice's access to national security information in the context of investigations and prosecutions in a variety of circumstances." 

CIA DENIES WHISTLEBLOWER ALLEGATION THAT AGENCY 'STONEWALLED' IRS INTERVIEW WITH HUNTER BIDEN 'SUGAR BROTHER'

"For example, CIA engages with DOJ to enable prosecutors to understand national security information that may arise in the course of an investigation and to assess their discovery obligations," Catella wrote. 

"CIA cooperates with law enforcement partners and does not obstruct U.S. law enforcement investigations or prosecutions," he continued. "To the extent your letter seeks information about any ongoing federal law enforcement investigation or prosecution, the Department of Justice is the responsible agency." 

Morris loaned Hunter Biden approximately $6.5 million — over $1 million more than initially estimated. 

Morris, who was subpoenaed to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry, said that he loaned Hunter Biden at least $5 million and began paying his tax liability. Morris and his attorney were estimating during the interview, a source told Fox News, and promised to follow-up with exact figures loaned to the first son. The attorney followed up to note an additional $1.6 million Morris had given Hunter Biden. 

Morris, on Oct. 13, 2021, gave Hunter Biden a loan for approximately $1.4 million. According to the letter, Hunter Biden was to repay the loan, with $500,000 paid by Oct. 1, 2026 and the remaining $417,634 by Oct. 1, 2027, plus interest.

A few days later, Morris loaned Hunter Biden $2.6 million, with directions to repay the loan by Oct. 1, 2029. That loan, according to Morris’ lawyer, "was used to pay, among other debts, Mr. Biden’s tax debt to the IRS."

On Oct. 17, 2022, Morris loaned Hunter Biden $640,355 to be repaid by Oct. 15, 2027. In December 2022, Morris loaned Hunter $685,813.99, to be repaid by Oct. 15, 2027.

A year later, Dec. 29, 2023, Morris loaned Hunter approximately $1.2 million to be repaid by Oct. 15, 2028, with all interest paid by October 2029.

Special Counsel David Weiss charged Hunter Biden with nine federal tax charges, which break down to three felonies and six misdemeanors for $1.4 million in owed taxes that have since been paid. 

Weiss charged Hunter in December, alleging a "four-year scheme" in which the president's son did not pay his federal income taxes from January 2017 to October 2020 while also filing false tax reports.

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The tax trial for the first son is set for Sept. 5. 

House GOP claims Hunter Biden lied under oath multiple times during congressional deposition

House Republicans have obtained information they say proves "indisputably" that Hunter Biden lied under oath multiple times during his congressional deposition earlier this year. 

The House Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday held a mark-up session to discuss documents protected under IRS code 6103 — a portion of the tax code that keeps certain information confidential. Discussing that material without it being properly released by the House Ways & Means Committee is considered a felony. 

The panel voted on Wednesday to release that information. 

"Hunter Biden has shown once again he believes there are two systems of justice in this country – one for his family, and one for everyone else. Not only did Hunter Biden refuse to comply with his initial subpoena until threatened with criminal contempt, but he then came before Congress and lied," House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith told Fox News Digital on Wednesday. "The Ways and Means Committee’s investigation, and the documents released today, are not part of a personal vendetta against Hunter Biden, but are meant to ensure the equal application of the law." 

HUNTER DEMANDED $10M FROM CHINESE ENERGY FIRM BECAUSE 'BIDENS ARE THE BEST,' HAVE 'CONNECTIONS'

Smith said the documents the committee obtained reveal that Hunter Biden lied at least three times during his deposition. 

After publication, Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell in a statement denied that any of the three examples were lies. 

"Here they go again, grasping at straws and twisting Hunter’s testimony to try to revive an impeachment inquiry that was a complete and utter failure," Lowell said. 

Smith noted that "lying during sworn testimony is a felony offense that the Department of Justice has prosecuted numerous individuals for in recent years, and the American people expect the same accountability for the son of the President of the United States." 

"Hunter Biden’s lies under oath, and obstruction of a congressional investigation into his family’s potential corruption, calls into question other pieces of his testimony," Smith said. "The newly released evidence affirms, once again, the only witnesses who can be trusted to tell the truth in this investigation are the IRS whistleblowers."

The committee claims Hunter Biden mischaracterized his role working for his firm, Rosemont Seneca, and actually controlled bank accounts he claimed in his deposition he did not. 

HUNTER BIDEN REQUESTED KEYS FOR NEW 'OFFICE MATES' JOE BIDEN, CHINESE 'EMISSARY' TO CEFC CHAIRMAN, EMAILS SHOW

The committee also said Hunter Biden claimed he did not help a foreign national obtain a visa, but the committee says emails between himself and his former associate Devon Archer show that the first son helped a man named Miguel Aleman with visa documents. 

The committee also pointed to Hunter Biden's claim that he sent a text to the wrong "Zhao," due to being under the influence, but WhatsApp records show Hunter Biden only spoke with one Zhao — Henry Zhao of Chinese energy firm CEFC. 

Hunter Biden in the WhatsApp message allegedly told a Chinese business associate from Chinese energy company CEFC that he and his father would ensure "you will regret not following my direction."

Hunter Biden requested the $10 million wire for his joint-venture with CEFC called SinoHawk Holdings. 

"I am sitting here with my father, and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled," Hunter Biden told Henry Zhao, the director of Chinese asset management firm Harvest Fund Management. "And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction."

Zhao responded, in part, "CEFC is willing to cooperate with the family."

Hunter Biden has been charged in two separate jurisdictions stemming from Special Counsel David Weiss’ yearslong investigation into him. 

The first son pleaded not guilty to federal gun charges in U.S. District Court for Delaware. He was charged with making a false statement in the purchase of a firearm; making a false statement related to information required to be kept by a licensed firearm dealer; and one count of possession of a firearm by a person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance.  

The first son also pleaded not guilty to federal tax charges in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California — specifically, three felonies and six misdemeanors concerning $1.4 million in owed taxes that have since been paid. 

Weiss alleged a "four-year scheme" when the president's son did not pay his federal income taxes from January 2017 to October 2020 while also filing false tax reports. Weiss filed the charges in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler approached Congress earlier this year, alleging that prosecutorial decisions made throughout the federal investigation into the president’s son were impacted by politics.

Shapley and Ziegler have said they were frustrated that the Justice Department did not charge Hunter Biden for failing to pay federal income tax for 2014 and 2015. They alleged that Weiss had allowed the statute of limitations to expire for tax charges against Hunter Biden from 2014 and 2015 in D.C.

FLASHBACK: HUNTER BIDEN IN 2017 SENT 'BEST WISHES' FROM 'ENTIRE BIDEN FAMILY' TO CHINA FIRM CHAIRMAN, REQUESTED $10M WIRE

Shapley, who led the IRS portion of the probe, said that Hunter Biden should have been charged with tax evasion for 2014, and for filing false tax returns for 2018 and 2019. With regard to the 2014 tax returns, Shapley said that Hunter Biden did not report income from Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings. 

Fox News Digital first reported in December 2020 that Hunter Biden did not report "approximately $400,000" in income he collected from his position on the board of Burisma Holdings when he joined in 2014. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Biden border chief Mayorkas in hot seat over Jordanian nationals who tried to breach Quantico

FIRST ON FOX: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is coming under scrutiny following news that two foreign nationals from Jordan attempted to breach the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia while posing as delivery drivers. 

"Please explain how they came to the United States. Were they here illegally? Are either of them on any terrorist watchlist?" Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned Mayorkas in a letter, also requesting the current status of the individuals. 

MCCONNELL-ALIGNED GROUP SHREDS SEN BROWN’S ‘HANDOUTS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS’ IN OHIO SPOT

The two foreign nationals sought entry to Quantico earlier this month, presenting themselves in a box truck and identifying as delivery drivers. After being brought to a holding area, they attempted to move farther toward the Marine base. However, they were prevented from doing so by officers. 

UNUSED COVID-19 FUNDS WOULD BUILD BORDER WALL UNDER NEW SENATE BILL

The individuals were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody following the event.

Acting ICE Director Patrick Lechleitner previously told Fox News Digital that the foreign nationals were in removal proceedings. 

BIDEN ADMIN SKEWERED BY GOP FOR RULE DESIGNED TO ‘INTENTIONALLY HARM’ GUN INDUSTRY

Graham prompted Mayorkas for an immediate response, asking for information about the Jordanian nationals' "background and intent."

According to the ranking member, "This will allow us to make an informed decision about how to address the recurring threat posed to our national security by this kind of incident, which is not isolated."

REPUBLICANS UNITE TO BLOCK WHITE HOUSE AND SCHUMER BACKED 'FAKE BORDER BILL'

DHS did not provide comment to Fox News Digital. 

Republican lawmakers have increasingly sounded the alarm over the vulnerabilities at the U.S. southern border being a security threat, noting the number of nationals from all over the world entering illegally across it. Some have warned that a terrorist attack, similar to that of Sept. 11, 2001, could take place again due to relatively unfettered illegal migration occurring into the U.S.

The House of Representatives made history earlier this year, impeaching Mayorkas, making him only the second cabinet official to suffer that fate. 

However, the majority-Democratic Senate blocked an impeachment trial from moving forward, allowing the DHS secretary to avoid scrutiny. 

Morning Digest: Republican attacks primary rival for being too strict on abortion

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Leading Off

SC-04: South Carolina Rep. William Timmons' newest ad accuses his primary opponent of being too hardline on abortion, a line of attack that GOP candidates almost never use against one another. Timmons, though, is betting that even Republican primary voters in the conservative Greenville area have limits on what they're willing to tolerate.

The spot shows footage of state Rep. Adam Morgan, who is challenging Timmons for renomination on June 11, raising his hand in support of what a female narrator describes as "legislation that would send rape and incest victims to jail for up to two years who ended their pregnancy."

"Adam," she continues, "being pro-life doesn’t mean you hurt women by jailing the victims of rape and incest. Your vote was shameful." Timmons himself closes out the commercial by saying he approves his message "because I am pro-life."

The Greenville News' Savannah Moss recently explained the context for the 2022 vote in question. At the time, the state House was debating a bill that would ban abortion unless the mother's life was at risk or the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault.

But Republican Rep. Josiah Magnuson thought these restrictions still did not go far enough, so he proposed an amendment that would punish a woman who "intentionally commits abortion" with a misdemeanor with a maximum prison sentence of two years.

Morgan, who chairs the far-right Freedom Caucus that Magnuson is also a member of, voted for his ally's plan, but most lawmakers did not. The amendment failed 91 to 9, though the legislature went on to ban abortion in most cases after just six weeks.

Morgan defended himself at a candidate forum earlier this month by claiming that his vote was meant to close an alleged "loophole" by going after women "who performed abortions on themselves." He also snarked that the three-term congressman didn't understand the true purpose of the vote because he suffered from "reading comprehension issues."

Timmons stood his ground both on the amendment and his reading abilities. The incumbent shared his new ad on social media Monday, writing that Morgan had backed a measure that "was widely rejected by the national and state pro-life movement as not only harmful to women, but to the noble effort to protect the unborn."

Timmons, who has Donald Trump's endorsement, is facing off against Morgan in an increasingly ugly battle. During a debate last week, the congressman brought up a website his campaign had created to attack Morgan for missing votes in the legislature, prompting Morgan to respond by drawing attention to rumors that Timmons used the powers of his office to conceal an extra-marital affair.

"The fact that we’re at a place in our politics where somebody has to go and create a website about attacking their opponent and attacking their integrity," Morgan complained. "I have to say, you don’t want this election to be about integrity."

When the rumors first surfaced two years ago, Timmons denied he'd done anything illegal. He did not, however, address whether he'd been unfaithful to his wife, who filed for divorce several months later, with the estranged wife of a developer named Ron Rallis.

Rallis publicly accused Timmons of moral and legal wrongdoing at the time and has since kept up a public crusade against the incumbent. The developer sat in the audience at a late April candidate forum as another attendee asked Timmons about the scandal. The congressman, after what the Post & Courier described as "a moment that left the room in awkward silence and Timmons at a loss for words," avoided giving a direct answer.

Election Recaps

CA-20: Assemblyman Vince Fong beat Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux in Tuesday's all-Republican special election to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Fong leads 60-40 as of Wednesday morning, with the Associated Press estimating that 87% of the vote has been tabulated. It's possible the margin may change as the remaining ballots are counted, but the outcome is not in doubt.

Fong and Boudreaux will face off one more time in November in the general election to represent California's conservative 20th District, which is based in the Central Valley, for a full term.

 GA-03 (R): Former Trump aide Brian Jack and former state Sen. Mike Dugan will face off in a June 18 primary runoff after no candidate won a majority of the vote in this five-person field. 

Jack took first with 47%, while Dugan outpaced former state Sen. Mike Crane 25-16 for second. The winner of next month's runoff should have no trouble in the general election to replace retiring GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson in Georgia's 3rd District, a reliably red seat based in the southwestern Atlanta exurbs.

Jack earned Trump's endorsement hours before he even announced he was running, and he also benefited from $1.5 million in spending from super PACs. (None of his opponents received any serious outside support.) It wasn't quite enough to secure an outright win for Jack on Tuesday, but it should give him a formidable advantage over Dugan in the second round.

 GA-06 (D): Rep. Lucy McBath handily won renomination in Georgia's revamped 6th District, setting her up for an easy November victory in this safely blue constituency. The well-known McBath took 85% while Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson finished with a distant 9% and state Rep. Mandisha Thomas ended up with 6%.

Thanks to multiple rounds of redistricting since she was first elected in 2018, McBath will have represented around 20% of the state once she's sworn in next year, according to analyst Varun Vishwanath.

GA-13 (D): Rep. David Scott defeated six challengers on Tuesday, clearing the way for the longtime congressman to win a 12th term in Georgia's redrawn 13th District in the fall. Despite serious concerns about his health, Scott won 57% of the vote while his nearest competitor, former South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker, earned just 12%. Like McBath's 6th, this district is safely Democratic.

 GA Supreme Court: Conservative Justice Andrew Pinson fended off a late challenge to win a six-year term on Georgia's Supreme Court, turning back former Democratic Rep. John Barrow 55-45.

Barrow had hoped his vocal support for abortion rights would help make him the first challenger to unseat a sitting justice in more than a century. Pinson, however, benefitted from his status as an incumbent—he was even listed as such on the ballot—and outside support from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed him to the bench in 2022.

ID-02 (R): While Rep. Mike Simpson didn't come close to losing renomination, the 13-term incumbent took an unimpressive 56% of the vote against a pair of underfunded foes; his nearest intra-party opponent, 2022 independent Senate candidate Scott Cleveland, earned 35%. But Simpson, who considered retiring this cycle before opting to seek reelection, should have nothing to worry about in the fall in this dark red constituency.

OR-03 (D): State Rep. Maxine Dexter beat former Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal in the primary to replace their fellow Democrat, retiring Rep. Earl Blumenauer, in this safely blue seat in the eastern Portland area. Dexter leads Jayapal 51-29 as of Wednesday morning, with the AP estimating that 63% of the vote has been tabulated. 

Dexter benefited from more than $2 million in support from 314 Action, a group that promotes Democratic candidates with backgrounds in science (Dexter is a pulmonologist). She also decisively outraised her opponents late in the race thanks in part to a large infusion from donors with a history of also giving to the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC. 

While AIPAC did not officially endorse Dexter, it responded to her victory by tweeting that "AIPAC members were proud to support" her against Jayapal.  

Jayapal, who is the sister of Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, received no major outside support and was also on the receiving end of more than $3 million in attacks from a new super PAC called Voters for Responsive Government.

We still don't know who's funding the super PAC, though. VFRG was required on Monday to disclose any contributors it received through April 30, but the forms it submitted only revealed that all of its donations came after that date.

OR-05 (D): State Rep. Janelle Bynum defeated 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner for the right to take on freshman GOP Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer. Bynum leads 69-31 with 70% of the estimated vote in.

Bynum, who would be the first Black person to represent Oregon in Congress, benefited from the support of the DCCC and Gov. Tina Kotek. A mysterious super PAC, by contrast, launched a late ad campaign to boost McLeod-Skinner in what appears to have been an unsuccessful Republican attempt to meddle in the primary.

McLeod-Skinner spent the race dogged by allegations that she had mistreated her staff as a candidate and as a municipal official, which could help explain both why Republicans wanted her and why national Democrats wanted Bynum. The 5th District, which is based in Portland's southern suburbs and central Oregon, favored Joe Biden 53-44 in 2020. 

OR-SoS (D): State Treasurer Tobias Read defeated state Sen. James Manning in the primary to replace Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, a fellow Democrat who did not run for a full term. Read leads 71-21 with the AP estimating that 71% of the vote has been counted.

Read will take on state Sen. Dennis Linthicum, who was one of the six Republican members of the upper chamber who were prohibited from seeking reelection this year because of a 2022 measure aimed at punishing legislators who take part in quorum-busting boycotts. Linthicum's advantage over his nearest opponent, businessman Brent Barker, stood at 66-20 on Wednesday morning with the AP estimating that 74% of the vote has been counted. 

Read will be favored in this blue state for a post that's both the state's chief elections officer and first in line to succeed the governor in case of a vacancy. That latter role will be a familiar one to Read: Oregon has no lieutenant governor, but because Griffin-Valade was appointed to her role after her predecessor, Shemia Fagan, resigned amid a scandal, Read is currently first in line.

Multnomah County, OR District Attorney: Longtime prosecutor Nathan Vasquez enjoys a big lead over District Attorney Mike Schmidt in the officially nonpartisan general election, though the AP has not yet called the race. Vasquez holds a 56-44 advantage with an estimated 63% of the vote tabulated as of Wednesday morning.  

Schmidt, whose decisive 2020 victory represented a big win for criminal justice reformers, identifies as a Democrat, while Vasquez left the Republican Party in 2017 to enroll with the Independent Party of Oregon. 

Vasquez ran ads arguing that under Schmidt, crime and homelessness have veered out of control in Portland. Schmidt tried to defend his record and highlighted Vasquez's past support for the policies he went on to attack, but the challenger's message appears to have won out.

Senate

MD-Sen: Former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has launched his first general election ad, which focuses on abortion and is part of a $1 million buy. The commercial, obtained by Politico, presents Hogan as an abortion rights supporter who claims he'll codify Roe v. Wade if elected.

Hogan had described himself as "pro-life" for years and notably vetoed a bill in 2022 that would have expanded abortion access, which Democratic lawmakers overrode. After kicking off his surprise bid for Senate in February, however, he began shifting his stance

That shift accelerated after Hogan won the GOP primary earlier this month, when he began calling himself "pro-choice" and endorsed the reproductive rights amendment that Democratic lawmakers placed on November's ballot following a party-line vote last year. But just days after he joined the race in February, Hogan told CNN's Dana Bash that abortion was an "emotional issue for women" and the ballot measure "wasn't really necessary."

While serving as governor, Hogan repeatedly claimed he wouldn't seek to restrict abortion access, but that prospect was always a nonstarter with Democrats dominating the state legislature. By contrast, if Hogan wins his Senate race, he would have the first chance in his career to restrict abortion rights by helping Republicans win a majority.

NV-Sen: A new internal poll finds Army veteran Sam Brown crushing former Ambassador to Iceland Jeff Gunter by 52-14 ahead of the June 11 Republican primary, with election conspiracy theorist Jim Marchant taking 7%.

The poll, obtained by the Nevada Independent, was conducted by the Tarrance Group for Brown and his supporters at the NRSC. Gunter has self-funded millions and has been advertising heavily in recent weeks, but it doesn't seem to have had a material impact. Last month, a survey from Tarrance for the same clients found Brown dominating 58-6 over Marchant while Gunter took 3%.

Governors

VT-Gov: Former Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Monday that he wouldn't seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who said earlier this month that he would seek a fifth two-year term. Weinberger led Vermont's largest city for 12 years before leaving office earlier this year. With former Gov. Howard Dean also saying recently that he'd sit out the race, Democrats lack a prominent candidate ahead of the May 30 filing deadline.

House

LA-05: Gov. Jeff Landry endorsed Rep. Julia Letlow on Monday in a tweet that did not mention her colleague and potential opponent, fellow GOP Rep. Garret Graves. Landry's move is anything but a surprise, though, as he reportedly pushed for the congressional map that turned Graves' 6th District solidly blue.

Graves, who spent about a year considering whether to take on Landry in the 2023 race for governor, further alienated the eventual winner by recruiting a rival candidate. Democratic state Rep. Mandie Landry, who is not related to Jeff Landry, said last month in her testimony over the new boundaries, "The governor wanted Congressman Graves out … It was the one [map] we all understood would go through."

Jeff Landry also used his tweet to note that Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who represents Louisiana's 1st District, is likewise supporting Letlow in the 5th. Scalise, like Landry, did not say anything about Graves in his own message praising Letlow, but he has his own reasons to want him out of Congress.

Scalise told Politico last year that Graves sabotaged his bid for speaker by spreading false rumors about his health. Scalise said that, while his physicians had told him his battle with cancer was progressing well, an "unnamed member of Congress" had claimed Scalise was "going to die in six months." This "unnamed member," according to Politico, was Graves.

VA-07: VoteVets has launched what it says is a $400,000 TV ad buy to support former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman in the crowded Democratic primary on June 18. The spot notes that Vindman was fired for standing up to Donald Trump in the scandal that led to Trump's first impeachment, and it also touts the Washington Post's recent endorsement along with Vindman's support for abortion rights.

Attorneys General

VA-AG: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week became the latest prominent Democrat to endorse former Del. Jay Jones for attorney general even though Jones himself hasn't announced his plans for next year's elections. The post is held by Republican Jason Miyares, who is a potential candidate for governor in 2025.

Ballot Measures

NV Ballot: Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom announced it had submitted more than 200,000 voter signatures for a ballot initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in Nevada's constitution. Amendment supporters need 102,362 of those signatures to be valid, including an amount in each congressional district equal to 10% of the votes cast for governor in the last election, a target supporters say they've also surpassed.

If the measure qualifies for the ballot and wins voter approval this fall, voters would have to pass it again in 2026 before it could take effect.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The National Rifle Association announced Monday that its new president would be former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, a Republican-turned-Libertarian-turned-Republican. The once mighty organization has seen its influence wane dramatically in recent years in large part due to a series of scandals, though Republican candidates still welcome its endorsement.

Barr, for his part, also saw his own power fade in the decades since he helped prosecute Bill Clinton as a manager during the president's 1999 impeachment trial. Peach State Democrats used the final congressional map they ever got to draw to pit Barr against fellow Rep. John Linder in the 2002 primary for the 7th District, a contest Linder won 64-36.

Barr went on to serve as the Libertarian Party's 2008 presidential nominee before rejoining the GOP a few years later. He sought a return to the House in 2014 when he campaigned for the open 11th District only to lose the primary runoff 66-34 to Barry Loudermilk, who still holds the seat.

Ad Roundup

Campaign Action

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The Trump ‘Reich’ reference is a reminder of what’s at stake in November

Reed Galen/The Home Front:

Donald Trump's 'Unified Reich'

Bullhorns, Not Dog Whistles

Donald Trump is in dire electoral straits, regardless of what national and state polling says. His coalition, such as it is, is smaller, older, whiter, more male, and more extreme than it was four years ago. You can read my deeper analysis here.

The noteworthy part of this episode for the Trump campaign isn’t that they posted a video talking about a ‘reich.’ What’s most interesting is that after the firestorm that erupted, his organization chose to take it down

CBS News:

Rudy Giuliani pleads not guilty as Trump allies are arraigned in Arizona 2020 election case

Allies of former President Donald Trump were arraigned Tuesday in Phoenix on charges that include conspiracy, fraud and forgery that are related to an alleged scheme to put forward phony electors in the 2020 election who backed Trump despite President Biden winning the state.

Rudy Giuliani pleaded not guilty to nine federal charges in the case in a virtual appearance. The former New York City mayor and Trump attorney was served Friday night while leaving his 80th birthday party.

Other defendants include former Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, attorneys Jenna Ellis and Christina Bobb, former Turning Point USA youth director Tyler Bowyer and Arizona Republican state election officials.

Trump adjacent characters are in court for the Arizona FAFO phase of election denial.

When voters tell a pollster which issues important to them, does that mean those issues determine how they'll vote? Actually, no. New from me @goodauth: https://t.co/4UwqbhHd6M

— John Sides (@johnmsides) May 21, 2024

Matt Robison/Washington Monthly:

The Low Information Trap: Why Don’t Voters “Get It?” Because They Don’t Know About It

Many voters aren’t reacting to Donald Trump’s many outrages because they don’t consume much news. At least, not yet.

If you had to boil down the biggest question rattling through the minds of tortured Democrats these days, it’s “Why don’t voters get it?”

How in the name of all that is holy can Donald Trump—a man indicted on 91 felony counts—still be leading in polls? Why are people so down on a president who has passed more popular bills than anyone since Lyndon Johnson? How could it be that while jobs and economic growth are soaring, many voters believe the economy is doing worse than during the Great Recession?

In other words, when things seem so obvious, how can voters be so oblivious?

There are plenty of theories. Stephen Colbert thinks voters have become “numb”: a political callous formed by years of rubbing against Trump’s outrages. Paul Krugman argues that a lot of voter sourness is driven by extreme hatred of Democrats by addled Republicans—a phenomenon dubbed “negative partisanship” by political scientists. Scads of commentators think Biden has been weighed down by lousy salesmanship, exemplified by the now-jettisoned slogan “Bidenomics.”

But there’s something even simpler going on, something the analyst world tends to undervalue: Almost no one is paying attention.

Late night scoop from @TChingarande. About 40 Arab American leaders met with Trump's "shadow secretary of state" Tuesday night at a chain Italian restaurant in Troy, Michigan. It didn't go well.https://t.co/mJLm9TnnYy

— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) May 22, 2024

Rick Hasen/Election Law Blog:

With Both Sides Resting in Trump Hush Money Trial, Whether Donald Trump Committed Felonies is Uncertain, Likely Depending on the Jury Instructions and How Appeals Courts Will Interpret the Law

As I explained in my LA Times piece, to make this into a felony, Trump had to be falsifying the records to further or conceal another crime. From the beginning, the NY district attorney was not that forthcoming about what those other crimes are. Eventually, the DA settled on three: violations of federal campaign finance law; a state election law, and a state tax law. The prosecutors’ emphasis has been on violation of federal campaign finance law.

There’s been much less attention paid to the state election law claim. As I’ve written, no one seems to be prosecuted under this New York law. This raises issues of potential selective prosecution. And more importantly, no one knows how appeals courts will say this New York law could be violated and whether what Trump did qualifies. Can violation of a federal campaign finance law constitute a state election law violation? Another serious issue on appeal.

I cannot speak to the state tax law violations, but we’ve heard very little about them in the prosecution’s case. Will those claims even go to the jury? What will the jury instructions there look like?

Still, there’s a good chance the District Attorney will cite New York State election law as the predicate.

POLITICO:

‘Are you staring me down right now?’: Key Trump defense witness draws judge’s wrath

The judge briefly cleared the courtroom while he admonished the witness and threatened to kick him off the stand.

Shortly after the prosecution rested its case Monday in the Manhattan hush money trial, the defense called to the stand a belligerent witness who sparred with prosecutors, muttered under his breath and drew the ire of the judge.

That witness was not Donald Trump.

Instead, it was an old-school New York lawyer named Robert Costello, whose demeanor on the stand seemed to embody defendant Trump’s surly attitude throughout the trial, which is in its sixth week and now appears to be heading for closing arguments next week.

From Katie Phang on X:

Here is a paraphrase of Costello's email:

"We can get Cohen on the right page without giving the appearance that we are following instructions from Giuliani or the President. In my opinion, this is the clear & correct strategy…..Signed, BOB .”

Cross examination: did you send Michael Cohen a retainer? That he didn’t sign?

Costello: yes

Cross: why was it inserted into a newspaper wrapped around a fish? Was that a message?

Costello: yeah, I like fish.

The above is only a slight exaggeration.

Trump Slams Colombia-Born Judge Presiding Over His Trial by Saying, 'Take a Look at Where He Comes From' https://t.co/Qnfi8hTGBr

— Mediaite (@Mediaite) May 21, 2024

In regard to a different court, Jill Lawrence/The Bulwark:

Enough Already: It’s Time to Reform the Supreme Court

Ethics outrages and partisan hardball are not what the Founders had

HOW MANY LAST STRAWS can there be? When it comes to the Supreme Court, the supply appears to be infinite.

The Court needs an extreme makeover ASAP, and that is far from an extreme idea. It’s the only path back to a high court that is trustworthy, balanced, logical, and durable.

The latest shock is the photo of an upside-down American flag—a symbol adopted by Donald Trump supporters, including the “Stop the Steal” movement to keep him in office after he lost—on display outside Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s house in January 2021, just days after an insurrectionist mob waving some upside-down flags attacked the U.S. Capitol.

And no matter how or how soon the justices rule on Trump’s argument that he deserves absolute immunity from criminal prosecution, apparently on the theory that presidents should be free to do whatever, including try to overturn elections they’ve lost, the oral argument in that case last month was so disturbing—with justices and Trump’s lawyers entertaining hypotheticals about a president ordering the murder of a political rival—that it can never be unheard. Not even if Trump loses the 2024 election, not even if he’s convicted in any or all of his criminal trials.

Dan Pfeiffer/”The Message Box” on Substack:

Why Dems Should Run Against the MAGA Supreme Court

The corruption of Alito and Thomas is an opportunity to unify the frayed Anti-MAGA coalition

Alito’s conflict of interest is not an isolated instance. Clarence Thomas failed to report a long list of financial gifts from people with business interests before the court. He refused to recuse himself from cases involving Trump’s efforts to overturn the election even though his wife was an active participant in the effort.

There is almost nothing Democrats can do. Representative Adan Schiff called on Thomas and Alito to recuse themselves. They won’t. Impeachment is not an option. A Republican House would not take it up and there is no universe where a sufficient number of Republican Senators would vote to remove a corrupt Justice.

With all of that said, we can channel our anger at Alito and the rest of the corrupt MAGA court into productive action. We can win the presidential election, in part by running against a corrupt Supreme Court.

The three states that matter most — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — all within 2 points or less. #tightasatick https://t.co/1HZheCIzY4

— Josh Kraushaar (@JoshKraushaar) May 22, 2024

Cliff Schecter on Democrats Jared Moskowitz and Jamie Raskin’s taking care of business:

Vince Fong advances in special election runoff to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Californians voted to advance Republican State Assemblyman Vince Fong during Tuesday's special election to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted last year.

Fong, a former McCarthy aide endorsed by both McCarthy and former President Trump, faced off with Republican Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux at the polls on Tuesday. 

Because both candidates are Republicans, the GOP will hold 218 seats, compared to the Democrats' 213, factoring in four vacancies. In California's jungle primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

Fong, who also earned the most votes in March's primary election, will serve out the rest of McCarthy's term until he battles against Boudreaux again in November in the general election.

TRUMP ENDORSES EX-KEVIN MCCARTHY AIDE VINCE FONG TO FILL VACANT SEAT AS HIS FORMER AIDES BACK FONG’S OPPONENT

Fong and Boudreaux advanced to Tuesday's runoff following a March special election where they emerged as the top two candidates, with neither getting more than 50% of the vote to trigger a victor. By November, voters in the district will have voted for either candidate a total of three times.

McCarthy resigned from the House in December, three months after he was voted out of the speakership. 

The district, which cuts through the Central Valley farm belt, including parts of Bakersfield and Fresno, is the most strongly Republican House seat in heavily Democratic California. Trump largely carried CA-20 in 2020 and McCarthy represented the district from 2007 until his resignation in late 2023. In February, Trump called Fong "a true Republican."

Among Boudreaux's supporters are Ric Grenell, former acting director of national intelligence under Trump, and Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove, from Fong's hometown of Bakersfield.

TULARE COUNTY SHERIFF MIKE BOUDREAUX ON THE CARTEL STYLE HIT THAT KILLED SIX PEOPLE

Trump's involvement in the race casts it as a litmus test for the former president's political relevance as he presumably gears up for a potential rematch against President Biden in November.

"I am proud to join California’s Republican Congressional Delegation, and give Vince Fong my Complete and Total Endorsement!" Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social. "Vince was one of only 6 Republicans in the State Assembly to stand with me, and reject the Second Impeachment Hoax. In Congress, Vince will work with me to Grow the Economy, Lower your Taxes, Cut Burdensome Regulations, Champion American Energy, and Protect and Defend the Second Amendment, which is under siege by the Radical Left."

HOUSE VOTES TO REMOVE KEVIN MCCARTHY AS SPEAKER IN HISTORIC FIRST

In October, the House of Representatives voted to oust McCarthy, the first time in history the top leader of the lower chamber was booted from the job. 

Fox News Digital's Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.